PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — If someone in your household is sick, you are not alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said flu cases are on the rise across the country, and health leaders said they are seeing that trend mirrored in our schools.
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Health Care District of Palm Beach County nurse Teffanie Hoover keeps busy screening students for COVID-19 and the flu at Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach.
"A lot of sniffles, headaches, runny noses, sore throats," Hoover said.
But Hoover has another tool now at her disposal: the ability to test students for both viruses and know within minutes if a child has a confirmed case.
"It's a great advantage versus trying to go home and call a doctor, get an appointment, take them to the doctor," Hoover said. "If I have a consent on file already, I can get permission over the phone to follow through with that consent, get them tested here at school, and they know by the time they get here to pick their student up."
That consent is key, Hoover said, in getting more students tested.
Parents need to have a "Consent to COVID and/or Influenza Testing and Release of Records Form" on file, giving permission for the COVID-19 or flu test. That's in addition to a new form — the "Parent/Guardian Consent for School Health Services Form PBSD 2667" — parents needed to sign this year to allow a nurse to even treat a student.
WATCH: Some Palm Beach County students can't receive basic medical care due to missing consent forms
"There are the instances where the parents are at work and they can't come get the student and there's no written consent on file. And that's the biggest obstacle," Hoover said.
Since the start of the school year, more than 16,000 Palm Beach County public school students have come to their school health room with flu-like symptoms, and nurses have performed about 650 flu and COVID-19 tests.
"You see an increase in the number of absences," said James Thomas, the principal of Conniston Middle School. "I think where our nurse plays an important role is in her direct communication to parents about flu and virus mitigation strategies."
Thomas wants families to know the testing option is free and available as flu cases increase and more students miss school.
"As we all know as working parents, there are a lot of obstacles sometimes in getting your child to the pediatrician as quick as possible. And this eliminates some of the obstacles," Thomas said.
Hoover said it's a team effort to keep everyone healthy and viruses contained.
"Just know that I'm here for your kids and I just need you to help me take care of them," Hoover said.
If you need access to either of those health consent forms, you can contact your child's school orclick here.
Leaders in the School District of Palm Beach County said about 80% of students now have the form on file that allows a nurse to treat them. That form is a new requirement from the state.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County has nurses at nearly every district school. The agency received the testing machines last year to help better mitigate viruses.